The Courage to Accept

Ideas around Acceptance have been popping up lately and this blog post explores some of the thinking I’ve been doing on Acceptance.

Recent Enneagram reading discussed 5 A’s: Awareness, Acceptance, Appreciation, Action, and Adherence.  Awareness has been a focus for me for a while now.  Awareness of my critical inner voice reiterating my self-limiting beliefs, awareness of the behaviors that are habitual based on these deeply held beliefs, and awareness of trying to live a life based on meeting societal expectations.

My Enneagram type can be briefly described as follows:  I believe I gain worthiness and love by being good, doing the right thing, meeting high standards (ideals), making no mistakes, correcting errors, and being responsible. I have very high expectations (for myself and others), trying to living a life of what I “should and shouldn’t” do. I have a strong tendency to point out what’s wrong and am highly judgmental of others (are they doing what is right, are they making mistakes). Said another way, I believe that if I am not good, not living up to expectations, not doing what I should, making mistakes, allowing mistakes to happen, or not being responsible for doing things in the right way, then I will not be worthy of love and belonging – I will be rejected and cast out.

This Enneagram thinking has helped me be even more specific in my awareness – Awareness of when I’m pointing out what’s wrong. Awareness of when I’m resentful of those who are not following the rules. Awareness of when I feel like I’m being criticized (making mistakes). Awareness of when I’m procrastinating because I worry about getting it right. Awareness of when I’m being judgmental of others or seeing things in just 2 dimensions (for me it is either right or wrong – can you just imagine how stressed I’ve been with the current political climate?). Awareness of when I am focused only on improvement/doing and not allowing time for pure pleasure/being.

I am becoming more aware of both my self-limiting thinking and my habitual behaviors. But change requires more than just awareness.  The next step is acceptance and I am learning that acceptance is hard. 

My 2021 Word of the Year is Courage.  I knew I needed the courage to become the “me I want to be“ which requires facing my fears, fully accepting what is (life’s imperfections, life’s messiness), and accepting myself (including letting go of things I thought I needed, letting go of deeply held beliefs, letting go of resentment).

Some of the courageous acceptance I am working on right now:

The courage to accept the mess. I should be de-cluttering. I should be downsizing and not moving everything we have to Florida. I should not have a house where there are piles of things on every surface. I should be minimizing what we have. Minimalism has become the new busy.  If you’re not de-cluttering and minimizing, you’re not meeting societal expectations. (And these expectations feel even higher as we get older/move to Florida.) Yes, I need to have the courage to “stop the should” and accept the mess!

The courage to accept myself. I hear (perceive) criticism or judgment in the comments of others.  Similar to the Sixth Sense of “I see dead people”, I “hear criticism” everywhere – in hubby’s comments about dinner, in blog reader’s comments, in friend’s recommendations, in my own inner voice. These criticisms often sound like unmet expectations.  I need to stop hearing criticism everywhere, accept my own individuality, and accept the imperfections in what I do. 

The courage to accept the mistakes or the things that are not “right”.  I need to stop stressing about the mistakes I make. I need to ignore the less than perfect dinners, the messed-up tile floors, the wish-I-made-different-choices garage design, the not-checked-off checklists, the empty calendar, and the lack of a detailed move plan.  It’s a challenge to lower my expectations (of others and myself) and not listen to my critical inner voice chiding me,  “how can you not be working towards that, how can you not be improving that, how can you not be making sure things happen, how can you not be following up so others meet your expectations, how can you let that happen?” It’s a challenge to just let things be, to not feel guilty if I’m not engaging in improving something, to not nag and push.   

It’s a huge challenge to let go of expectations whether societal, perceived, or from my own critical inner voice. I need to go beyond awareness and have the courage to accept who I am and accept life as it is.

Embrace the glorious mess that you are – Elizabeth Gilbert

Is there something you need the courage to accept?

Photo Credit: Me – an old photo repurposed for my WOTY Courage series

17 thoughts on “The Courage to Accept

  1. When you are your own worst critic, it’s not just hard to accept yourself but also to love, praise and reward yourself. I struggle with this all the time. Another place, another age and you’d have found me in a hair shirt! I guess recognising the issue is a good start for overcoming it.

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    1. LOL. I’ve only read about hair shirts…and yeah, self-flagellation also comes to mind. We mentally beat ourselves up sometimes… would never say these kind of things anyone – friend or stranger. I am getting better at catching myself and stopping – someday maybe I won’t even start!

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  2. Hmm. Clearly lack of career success must have been a blessing. I spent my whole career not being good enough so I gave up on that a long time ago. You never know what turns out to be a blessing until you get to look back on it with hindsight. Love your “I see dead people” comparison. 🙂

    Totally can relate to this declutter wave. Even in my knitting blog group it is a frequent topic on many of the knitters blogs (uhhh knitters do have this habit of a constantly growing “stash” of yarn that takes over closets, then the room, then more rooms,… 🙂 ). I have stopped setting Yearly Goals since I was never meeting them. If I get around to learning Spanish great but no more beating myself up because I missed that goal once again. Best wishes as you work through your acceptance.

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    1. I’m looking at goals a bit differently these days. Not as “must reach” but as challenges to continue to prioritize things I love to do (versus a tendency to stagnate – gotta know yourself, hmm?), and keep track of them so I can remember the good things. Looking back on my lists of new things brings me joy – probably like your recalling projects completed (do yo take pics of everything?). So I’d never have a decluttering goal (a group I know is doing a decluttering challenge – would not bring me joy!). I’m not sure yet I can revel in the messiness of our clutter…too many folks still on the declutter bandwagon. But at least I’m trying to say it’s OK not to join in. And when folks comment on it (and yes they do regularly – hubby has a LOT of stuff), I can say “it is what it is”.

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  3. Thanks for another thoughtful post.
    I chose ‘accept’ as my WOTY as a one-word compromise for ‘radical acceptance’.
    I knew that the pandemic would require some level of tolerance, change and acknowledgement of reality. There are so many things in the external environment that aggravate me. Instead of fighting what is out of my control, I’m working to accept what is and continue with my life journey.

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    1. Jeanette, I found myself this week immersed in the external world again – things out of my control! It’s so hard to accept all that, really just let it go. I’m thinking it’s time for another no new week!

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  4. I have similar issues with perceived criticism, especially from my husband. I’ve tried to think back to my childhood to see where that may have come from but, so far, it eludes me. I guess, regardless of where/when it started, it’s something that I am trying to let go. Good luck with your journey!

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    1. Janis, Yes, I do hear it with my husband a lot also. I’m trying hard to be aware of it and to tell myself it is NOT criticism…. it is conversation and merely his POV. Doesn’t always work, but I try! LOL.

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  5. I related to this. We have a lot in common regarding messiness, perfectionism and hearing criticism when it may not be intended. I consider myself this to be my journey. With all the time at home this year, I thought I’d have made more progress, but just surviving this tumultuous year has been a goal. Thanks for your writing.

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    1. Maury, wonderful perspective. Yes, surviving this past year has been a goal unto itself. I recall the exact date we went into “self-quarantine” – March 12, 2020. I look at my journal notes from those early days and realize I’ve had to “accept what is” a lot this year. Sometimes it’s good to look at how far I’ve come on the journey. At least now I recognize at times (not always – hah) I’m hearing criticism which is probably NOT THERE! Awareness is key!

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  6. Hi Pat – I’ve been working very hard on this area of my life over the last several years. Letting go of perfectionism and in the process allowing myself to no be okay with that. It’s all well and good to say that we don’t need things to be perfect, but if we’re constantly fighting that in our heads then we’re on the road to nowhere. I don’t think I’ll ever be a “glorious mess” but I’ve come a long way towards the point of accepting that I’m enough as I am and I don’t need to keep proving myself to others (or to my inner critic).

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    1. Leanne, You made me think about looking (once again) at how far I’ve come, and not focus on how far I think I still need to go. There’s the perfectionism in me! I’m much better at acceptance than I was a couple of years ago… that is for sure! Like many of us, I am a work in progress.

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  7. I had to learn to become more accepting of “what is” rather than what I would have rathered. I have become much better at being aware! First step to any significant change. Much of this learning has been a culmination of over 6 years via Tara Brach, Jack Kornfield, Brene Brown Etc & being a daily meditator now via Calm. It benefits me that my husband is a trained counsellor & teacher who knows me well.. 50 years wed & he is complete opposite of me! I learn when I am ready & that’s been the case now. Pat, I hope you don’t mind but I saw a lot of “shoulds” in your post & that word is such a negative (for me) these days because it’s like you are continuing to live how you have but “know” you need to change & application of should is such a pushy word! Choose is so much more about us becoming aware of both our limitations & gifts. Denyse

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    1. Denyse, Removing the “should” from my vocabulary is an uphill battle. As you say, awareness is key, and I often catch myself using the word, stop, and reflect on why I’m using it. Giving up on societal expectations is something I am actively working on – it’s a paragraph I even left out of this post, because I think it will take more than courage for me to completely let it go. I do think I’m getting better at “hearing the should” and ignoring it. It’s nice to hear your 6-years of work on similar acceptance. See – comparison for expectation again. But in this case it’s helpful to know I’m not alone in the journey!

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